John Boehner’s Bluff

Leadership

House Speaker John Boehner says he is going to sue President Obama. For what exactly? For… well, he will figure that out later, but it will have something to do with executive orders and not implementing laws passed by Congress.

Of course it’s a bluff. You know and I know that under the Constitution you must have suffered some kind of harm in order to sue anyone for redress. Boehner has no “standing” in court. Congress has no “standing” in court. They can’t show they’ve been harmed.

You and I would have a better case if we were to sue John Boehner and Congress. We have suffered irreparable harm at their hands. They have let the country drift into an economic and social Sargasso Sea while they attack and obstruct the President - and fight among themselves.

Even Fox News can see that. The cable channel’s Neil Cavuto gave Michele Bachmann a piece of his mind Wednesday when she started jawing about suing the President. He tongue lashed Bachmann and her colleagues in Congress for launching attacks at each other instead of addressing the nation’s pressing problems.

Cavuto dismissed the threat to sue as a waste of time. He asked Bachmann:

Where was your rage when Democrats were going after President Bush on the same use of executive orders, because I think you knew then that that was a waste of time then and I think you know in your heart of hearts this is a waste of time now.

When Bachmann persisted, he told her she was “being silly,” and cut to a commercial

Fox News!

I guess that crazy Michele Bachmann has worn out her welcome on the news channel. And it seems her Tea Party pals are in disarray nationwide. Yes, they defeated Eric Cantor in Virginia but they got their heads handed to them in Mississippi. And South Carolina. And Kentucky.

So why is Boehner kowtowing to them? Why is he talking rubbish and pledging millions of Repubican Party dollars to support their candidates?

I guess he’s that kind of guy. Dumb.

The House speaker should read the writing on the wall. America is getting fed up with the Tea Party’s nonsense. They’ve gone too far.

Even the Republican Party establishment has had enough. And the party establishment can get mean. As in Cavuto’s rant, for example.

Those Tea Party candidates are in for a shock.

Remember I told you so when they get a shellacking in November.

Click for more on the Fox News episode.

Click for Boehner’s announcement.

 

What’s “Food,” Anyway?

insects

 

At boarding school back in Jamaica, we usually had oatmeal porridge at breakfast. Unfortunately, the school was far in the mountains, way beyond the existing power lines at that time, and there was no refrigeration. So, by mid-term, the stored oatmeal would be invaded by weevils.

I can still see those tiny white weevils in my mind’s eye, lying in state on the surface of the porridge. I could eat the oatmeal and weevils, scoop off the weevils and eat the oatmeal – or go without my porridge. I went without when I wasn’t starving but there were times when hunger prevailed. I somehow managed to get past the weevils and force some porridge down my throat.

Silly me! Apparently, those weevils would have been good for me.

I just read an article by Sarah Gray, in Salon.com, suggesting that insects (are weevils insects? I suppose so) are “the next superfood.”

And I suppose I should have seen it coming.

My sister Elizabeth recently toured parts of Asia, and she reports that eating insects is common in countries like Cambodia, where food is hard to come by. Fried tarantula, for example, is a delicacy.

And I read somewhere long ago – probably in one of those Tarzan books – that our ancestors, the Great Apes, dug up fat, juicy grubs and munched on them.

Disgusting? Why?

We eat the flesh of other animals. If you stop to think about it, how disgusting is that? But we humans got used to it over time, and now we (most of us anyway) don’t give it a thought as we cut into a juicy steak or carve that Thanksgiving turkey.

Furthermore, I understand some insects are considered a delicacy even in Western culture. Those well-heeled sophisticates who enjoy snails and frog’s legs also prize chocolate coated ants and crickets, I am told.

Do they know something we commoners don’t?

If the article in Salon.com is to betrusted, it seems they do. The article states .

 Both the video (produced by AsapSCIENCE) and University of California, Riverside (UCR) report that insects are a good source of proteins,essential minerals, vitamins and fat. There is also an argument to be made about their sustainable farming. “There is a strong case in favor of mass rearing insects for food as this practice is probably less environmentally damaging than other forms of protein production,” University of Riverside, California has written.

As the world’s population soars and its resources dwindle, humans will inevitably be forced to broaden their definition of  “food.” You can probably expect to see canned crickets in your grocery store in the not-too-distant future.

What? You would never eat insects?

Dream on. You alreadydo.

Here’s an excerpt from the Salon.com article that should give you pause:

It has been estimated that the average American eats about two pounds of dead insects and insect parts a year. These bugs are in vegetables, rice, beer, pasta, spinach and broccoli. The US Food and Drug Administration has allowable insect parts per certain food types. For example, beer which is made from hops, can contain up to 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of hops!!!

And you thought the weevils in my porridge were disgusting.

Click for the Salon.com article.

Click for more on eating insects.

 

She Did it Her Way

michelle

 

Tell the truth, you wrote off Michelle Wie, didn’t you? You gave up on the kid, dismissed her as just another flash in the pan, another prodigy that fizzled. And you probably shook your head when she decided to finish school before joining the LPGA tour full time. Was she nuts, taking a pass on an opportunity to mint millions just so she could get a Stanford degree in communications?

And I bet you rolled your eyes when she adopted that “table top” putting style (above). What on earth was she thinking, bending over like that, her long, long legs making her look like an exotic bird?

What do you have to say now? Now that she has won her major, not just any major but the Big One, the US Women’s Open, now that she has pocketed $1.6 million and looks to make millions more by year end?

What can you say? What can anyone say?

Michelle Wie was right all along. She stuck to her guns while the critics howled – even overriding her coaches and parents as she matured.

And she did it with a smile. She never abandoned her girlish sense of fun, the whimsical joie de vivre that put streaks in her hair as a 14-year-old playing with the pros and designer bandages on her leg as a 24-year-old winning her first major.

From all accounts, Michelle Wie is popular among LPGA competitors, despite her prodigious talent, which could be expected to incite envy among her rivals. She insists on having fun in good times and bad. And the other pros – most of them anyway – enjoy her upbeat company.

The fans love her too. Old Pinehurst No. 2 shook as the sound waves reverberated across those diabolical greens and winding fairways. Michelle had won – in America!  She had already won LPGA trophies in Mexico and Canada, but not in America, not until now.

She took the harder way, the way less traveled, and it has led to her first major win – the first of many, you can go to the bank on that.

How sweet it is! She insisted on doing it her way, the bumpy way, and that has made all the difference. Here’s how she put it after her victory on Sunday:

 Without your downs, without the hardships, I don’t think you appreciate the ups as much as you do. I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15.

Click for an account of her victory.

Click for more on the Michele Wie story.

 

Don’t Blame Walmart

I don’t often shop at Walmart. It’s laid out in the most haphazard fashion and its products are not always reliable. Sometimes they work out OK; sometimes  not so much. (And Sandra won’t eat their groceries.)

But I think the current crusade against the retail giant is unfair.

Sure, Walmart employees are paid little and nothing. Sure, they’re often treated like indentured servants. And, yes,  Walmart workers definitely need a union.

But it’s not necessarily up to Walmart to mend its ways. As long as the company’s economic model works, and as long as they’re not using physical force, or other illegal means, to intimidate their workers, I think it’s unreasonable to demand that Walmart become like Starbucks (as Timothy Egan seems to suggest in the New York Times). Or like Costco (as some other Walmart critics advocate).

Starbucks and Costco’s benevolent models work for them; Walmart’s mean-spirited model works for Walmart.

And if Walmart workers must rely on food stamps and other kinds of welfare to survive, that’s a shame. But I don’t blame Walmart. I blame the federal government.

If the government created an economy in which low-skilled workers could find other jobs, better paying jobs, they wouldn’t flock to Walmart.

I see the primary role of government not as some kind of police agency, telling private companies what they can and cannot do. For one thing, private companies find ways to get around federal regulations. For another, too much government regulation breeds the kind of rebellion you are seeing in the Tea Party and other hostile groups.

I would prefer the government to be an enabler, providing incentives to private companies to do the right thing, and competition to private companies if they don’t.

Instead of regulating the vast health care industry, for example, it would have been more effective to expand Medicare and provide an alternative insurance source to compete against the private insurers. But a single-payer health insurance system was out of the question politically. Too many Democrats sided with Republicans against it.

And, while I can see the merits of a minimum wage hike, the government might get even better results by providing alternative sources of employment to compete against employers like Walmart.

Why can’t Walmart workers find better jobs?

The fault is yours and mine. We let skinflints get control of Congress, and they refuse to pass a jobs bill. They are letting the nation’s infrastructure rot, while millions are jobless.

You voted Democrat? That’s not enough. We should have done more. We didn’t get enough of our friends to vote with us. We didn’t persuade those “conservative” acquaintances to change their tune. We didn’t give President Obama a Congress he could work with.

In a democracy like ours, individuals – you and me – have to work harder to ensure we get the government we want. If we don’t, we get the government we deserve.

Click for Timothy Egan’s column.

Click for Walmart’s response.

Click for Walmart’s policies vs. Costco’s.

 

When Children Invade

kids

 

Unaccompanied children are swarming into America across the Mexican border. They come from such impoverished  Latin America countries as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

U.S. authorities estimate the number of those children will total between 60,000 and 80,000 this year, and the surge has prompted federal authorities to turn three military bases into shelters.

The conditions under which these children – some as young as 5 – are being housed are shocking and shameful (see photo).

And many of the migrating children are reportedly subjected to nightmarish sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the smugglers who help them cross the border.

So what does House Speaker John Boehner think President Obama should do? Send in the troops, that’s what!

Boehner sent a letter to the President on Friday calling for National Guard troops to go to the border and – and what? Gun down the kids?

Children have been crossing the Mexican border without their parents for years – for decades even. But not in today’s numbers. The surge has snowballed. I understand it’s being precipitated by criminals who promise the parents the kids will be allowed to stay once they get across the border. These criminals take money from the pitifully poor parents to transport the kids.

Once they cross the border, the children are on their own.

Only someone as callous as John Boehner would imagine that there’s a military solution to this problem.

To the rest of us, it’s a humanitarian challenge.

Any American with a conscience must feel a twinge of responsibility for the poverty that drives Latin American parents to give up their precious children in hopes of a better future for them – a future in the Land of Opportunity.

For such children have no opportunity in Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador. They belong to a permanent underclass firmly kept in place by a militarized elite. And throughout history, American governments have fostered this system, relying on it to provide a stable environment in which American corporations can make huge profits.

The atrocities committed to further such policies are legendary – and legion. And many were committed with American complicity, even in some cases, with American involvement.

When the children of the poor and oppressed come swarming into America, it’s these perverted policies coming home to roost.

I am sure President Obama will pay no attention to Boehner’s horrible proposal. Indeed, I understand from Bloomberg Business News that:

The U.S. plans to spend $9.6 million to help Central American governments repatriate citizens who’ve crossed into the U.S. illegally. The money is intended to enable El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to expand existing repatriation centers and services, according to a White House statement. 

And I suppose that’s a laudable beginning. But there’s much more to be done.

America owes a huge debt to countries in this hemisphere, which US corporations have plundered freely for generations. And the President can make a payment on that debt by caring for their throw-away children.

The administration has asked Congress for $1.6 billion to help the Unaccompanied Alien Children program handle the surge. Perhaps that money could be used to provide humane conditions for the vulnerable youngsters.And perhaps a program could be devised to give the kids an opportunity to be adopted by American families.

Of course, there are Americans who would be outraged by such proposals. And these inhumane people seem to have a lot of political clout these days.

In the current political climate, it is probably impossible to accept the children in America and care for them. But at least America can make sure they are returned to their countries in a humane manner. And in the long term, policies should be introduced to help make their home countries lands of opportunity for all, as these little ones envisage America to be.

Photo above shows detained children sleeping in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Brownsville,Texas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)

See one facility housing 500 children.

Click for an example of US policy in Latin America.

 

A Sense of Entitlement

Saba-Ahmed

 

Once again, a Republican politician is being accused of misconduct. This time, it’s Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who’s in trouble. He is accused of “criminal” behavior in his 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Why do Republicans seem so prone to this kind of scandal?

I think the reason is a sense of entitlement.

I am convinced that Republicans, especially male Republicans, feel they’re somehow privileged, that the rules applying to common folk couldn’t possibly apply to them. After all, they’re a cut above, as all the world knows – or should know.

Read George Will’s columns if you don’t believe me. And look up comments that Republican candidates make on rape, birth control, voting rights and other social issues. They seem to think white males are entitled to rule the roost, to take what they want and decide who gets the rest.

Or listen to the neocons talk about blowing up children in Iraq and other faraway places. Obviously, in their eyes, non-white children aren’t the same as white children. Non-white children are expendable – collateral damage, casualties of history…

I bet they wouldn’t be so eager to bomb families in Denmark or Sweden – or even Russia, which they hate so much.

I grew up in Jamaica, when a small colonial class ruled the island. These privileged representatives of the British were nearly all white – or “Jamaica white” – and they enjoyed special privileges. I won’t list the many ways in which this special position was abused. If you’re from Jamaica, you know. If you’re not, you probably don’t care.

The point is that I see the same kind of thing here in America.

It’s as if America were a colony of some kind with a ruling class identified primarily by skin color. You might think I’m crazy, but where are the black billionaires? And how many Hispanic billionaires can you name?

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying. In a country of more than 300 million people, a country that is changing as I write this blog, the situation is far more complex.

But what I’m getting at is the sense of being special that Republicans seem to have.

Their disregard for “the other” was on display recently at the Heritage Foundation conference on Benghazi. When  Saba Ahmed, a Pakistani Muslim (above), suggested that some at the conference seemed to stereotype all Muslims as violent and anti-American, she was ridiculed and scolded. (Click on the link to the video at the end of this blog.)

And Republicans in Congress don’t seem distressed by the suffering they cause when they slash funding for social programs – the school lunch program, for instance. It’s as if they believe poor people’s children should go hungry.

So why do so many poor people vote Republican? Statistics show these voters are mostly white males, and I can only assume they are basking in the reflected glory of their more privileged brothers. They might be poor but at least their skin is the same color as David Koch’s – and that makes them “better.”

Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying. But can you tell me why I’m wrong?

Click for the Heritage Foundation video.

Click for the Walker story

Click for Will’s views on rape.

 

Renaming the Redskins

redskins

What would Americans do without Twitter? The online social networking and microblogging service is filling the vacuum created by a dormant Congress. Everyone – including the President qnd other national leaders – posts a tweet to provide vital information or air their views now. Twitter has become the national forum, where the people’s problems are discussed and sometimes solved.

The most pressing problem at the moment is finding a new name for the Washington Redskins.

The NFL team needs a new name. It doesn’t want a new name but it definitely needs one. And Twitter is on it. Dozens of suggestions are being tweeted as I write this blog.

Native American activists have decided they won’t put up with the insulting name any longer, and a lot of people agree they have a case. Pressure is mounting on owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s 80-year-old name. Intense pressure. Even the US Patent Office has joined the crusade, canceling a bunch of the team’s patents because  they include “a racial slur.”

That could make Snyder give in. Critics’ words might not impress him but when the team’s patents are affected, you can bet he is going to listen. We’re talking serious merchandising losses here.

I didn’t find the name all that offensive at first. I come from Jamaica, where “skin” is used with abandon. In Jamaica we couldn’t seem to identify each other without referring to our skins. Terms like “cool skin,” and “brown skin” and – yes – “red skin” – are in common use. (Even the national beauty contest was once divided into skin-color segments – “Miss Mahogany,” for example.) And you’d better not be thin-skinned when these terms are used to describe you, or you might hear a lot worse. Jamaicans don’t hesitate to “trace” you – and your ancestry – if you provoke them.

But I guess people are more sensitive here in America. And when I think about it, “Redskin” is not a very nice way to describe a human being. Potatoes yes. Humans no.

And I don’t think American Native People have particularly ruddy complexions. But then, my Chinese friends certainly don’t look yellow. And the so-called Caucasians don’t look “white,” either. They are sometimes pink, sometimes beige, but – unless they’re very sick – never white.

Nobody cares what I think, of course. But the team’s owner probably cares what all those folks on Twitter think. And I’m sure he cares what the patent office thinks.

So far,most suggestions on Twitter have reflected the chaos in Congress, rather than anything to do with football – or Native Americans. (“Filibusters” is one suggestion, for example.)

What about you? Have a suggestion?  Write your congressional representative – or, better yet, jump on Twitter and let America know. (But I wouldn’t mention “skin” if I were you.)

Click for more on the name change.

 

What Does Cheney Want?

cheney

What does Dick Cheney want? He isn’t in any kind of public office. He isn’t running for anything. He is worth millions and has more millions pouring in. He has a mansion in McLean, Virginia and a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming…

Why is he courting attention now?

His latest shtick is an op-ed piece with daughter Liz (photo) that ran in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, they are attacking President Obama – again.

The president, they say, is “abandoning” Iraq and putting Americans at greater risk of terrorist attacks from al Qaida.

You would think that a 73-year-old codger with someone else’s heart beating in his chest would be less contentious. Why doesn’t he enjoy his mansion and his millions and his grandchildren and stop pestering us?

But no, he can’t seem to stay away from the public spotlight.

I assume he is trying to give his daughter’s political career a much-needed boost. Poor Liz has been a dismal flop as a candidate so far. He may be a monster but from all accounts, he has always been a devoted dad.

But he must know he isn’t doing her any good with the voting public. Only a few hardcore right wingers still think Dick Cheney is a great American. The rest of the world thinks he is a great monster – a war criminal, guilty of torturing prisoners, and a liar guilty of conning America into a disastrous war that cost 4,500 American lives and who knows how many Iraqi lives.

Like a pro wrestler who makes a career out of being a villain, Dick Cheney seems to delight in being booed.

When he is told in an infamous ABC-TV interview that most Americans don’t think the Iraq War was worth it, he responds with a sneering “So?”

Cheney supplies the media with a treasury of outrageous quotes, and insists he was right to send young Americans to be maimed and killed in Iraq, making millions for himself and his business associates in the process – regardless of what anyone else might think.

He displays the same kind of unrepentant arrogance about his waterboarding of prisoners. It was the right thing to do, he insists, and if you don’t agree, you’re a traitor and a wimp.

He certainly isn’t hanging his head in shame, as you and I would do if we were guilty of his atrocities. Far from it. He writes a memoir. He goes on TV to promote the book and bares his chest to show the ladies of The View the cords protruding from it.

Surely, this guy isn’t for real. Surely, he’s just another troll, pulling our chains with remarks calculated to infuriate us.

So why do the media pay so much attention to him?

Click for the news story.

 

The Right to Lie

A right-to-life group is suing for the right to lie. No kidding. And the US Supreme Court agrees they have a case. Is this a great country or what?

In America, you can say just about anything. You can call the President a monkey, for example, and you can draw a Hitler mustache on his photo. It seems that you can even incite violence against the chief of state as white-power activists and media loud-mouths often do.

As for facts, who needs ‘em?

Like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, your words can mean whatever you want them to mean. You can even make up your own facts to support whatever argument you’re pushing. (Makes you think of Fox News, doesn’t it?)

Take the case of the Susan B. Anthony List vs. Driehaus.

In 2010, the Susan B. Anthony List  - which is dedicated to fighting abortion – wanted to run billboards accusing Democratic Rep. Steven Driehaus of supporting “taxpayer-funded abortion” because he voted for Obamacare. Of course, Obamacare - more formally known as the Affordable Care Act  - does not include state funded abortion, but, hey, this is America and this is politics so who cares whether it’s true?

The Ohio legislature, that’s who.

In a fit of decency, those naïve Ohio legislators had adopted a False Statement Law that makes it a criminal offense to knowingly or recklessly make false statements about a political candidate. The maximum penalty for telling such lies in an Ohio electoral campaign is a fine of $5,000 and six months in prison.

The Susan B. Anthony folks think the law is downright unconstitutional. They filed a lawsuit to quash it.

A federal judge dismissed the case. And that decision was upheld by the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court and the Justices have ruled unanimously that the lawsuit may proceed.

In the land of the free, bearing false witness might be one of those God given rights, I guess.

Click for more about the case.

 

The Wendy Surprise

halloween-wendydavis

Some mountains look just too high to climb. But you can be sure someone has climbed them. Or will climb them one day. Some people have that kind of spirit.

Wendy Davis is one of those people.

She actually believes she can become governor of Texas.

Texas! The Lone Star State. Land of the Colt .45 and the 16-ounce steak.

In my mind, Texas is a vast sea of grass dotted by cattle and yodeling cowboys with ten-gallon hats, who mask their steely nature with elaborate politeness.

I know, there are cities in Texas, big cities … skyscrapers and refineries … universities and corporate offices… I’ve been to Dallas-Fort Worth once and to Houston many, many times… the company I worked for in Miami had its head office in Houston.

But the Texas that lives in my imagination is the legendary land I adventured in as a boy, when I immersed myself in Zane Grey books, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies, and so on.

And it’s the legendary Texas that comes to mind today when I read news reports quoting Rick Perry or announcing some new legislative ban on abortion or civil rights. Surely, nobody who lives in a modern society would liken homosexuality to the disease of alcoholism, as Rick Perry just did? Surely no modern state would turn back the clock on women’s rights as Texas has? Surely, only a society shrouded in ignorance and inhumanity would pursue the sexist and racist policies that Texas has been pursuing?

So how does Wendy Davis figure she can become governor of such a state? She is indubitably a woman. And she is a Democrat – a progressive Democrat, not some ambiguous Blue Dog.

You remember Wendy? She’s the state legislator in the pink sneakers who stayed on her feet all night filibustering some retrogressive anti-abortion law. The teenaged single mother who grew up in a trailer park and worked her way through law school. Harvard law school. Yeah, that one.

Surely, she doesn’t have a chance of beating Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor who enjoys the support of Perry’s gang and all those right-wing cattle and oil billionaires?

Where would she even get the money that kind of campaign demands?

Surprise! The money is rolling in from far and wide, from Hollywood and Manhattan, for instance, even from places like Florida. Here’s an excerpt from an AP piece today by Paul J. Weber:

At a recent rooftop fundraiser hosted by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Bad Robot film studios near Los Angeles, she socked away more money for what could be a financially record-shattering race for Texas governor.

 Likewise, in Manhattan brownstones, Silicon Valley mansions and Washington hotels, Davis has told her compelling personal story of rising from a trailer park to Harvard Law and reeled in donors. She now has financial backers in every U.S. state and has collected nearly four times as much — at least $3.6 million — from outside Texas as her opponent, Republican Greg Abbott.

The odds still favor Abbott. He’s ahead in the polls. But there are miles to go before the election is decided, so who knows? Davis could pull it off. She’s done far more than anyone could have expected already.

Click for Wendy’s fund raising. 

Click for the filibuster story.